Toronto, May 8, 2008
Thank you for your warm welcome. Thank you Ivan for your kind introduction. Consul General Gissin, Minister Jim Flaherty, Leader of the Opposition John Tory, colleagues from the federal and provincial legislatures, members of the United Jewish Appeal Federation, ladies and gentlemen, I am truly honoured to be part of tonight’s celebration marking the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel.
All of my life, Israel has been a symbol – a symbol of the triumph of hope and faith. After 1945, our battered world desperately needed to be lifted out of post-war darkness and despair. After so much pain and suffering, humanity needed comfort and optimism. After so much death and destruction, we needed renewal – the renewal of the dream of a better and more civilized world. In short, we needed to be inspired. It was the people who had suffered who most provided that inspiration. By their example, they led the world back to the light. From shattered Europe and other countries near and far, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made their way home. Their pilgrimage was the culmination of a two-thousand-year-old dream; it is a tribute to the unquenchable human aspiration for freedom, and a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people.
In the sixty years that followed, Israel blossomed into one of the most successful countries on earth; a land of ingenuity and enterprise, an oasis of agricultural genius, a wellspring of fine art and high culture, a model of democracy. Israel truly is the “miracle in the desert.”
But the source of Israel’s strength and success, in my view, is its commitment to the universal values of all civilized peoples: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Soon I hope to have the opportunity to travel to Israel to see the “miracle” with my own eyes; to see how millions of people from all over the earth, with their countless different languages and traditions, came together to build a modern, prosperous, vibrant, democratic country. It is a pilgrimage I have wanted to make for a long time, but my determination to do so was redoubled this spring after I visited Auschwitz. I want to see first-hand what the survivors of the Holocaust and their descendants have accomplished, for theirs is truly an achievement of resilience and renewal unsurpassed in human history.
I also want to go to deliver in person the message of Canada’s unshakable support for Israel.
Unfortunately, Israel at 60 remains a country under threat – threatened by those groups and regimes who deny to this day its right to exist. And why? Make no mistake; look beyond the thinly-veiled rationalizations: because they hate Israel, just as they hate the Jewish people. Our government believes that those who threaten Israel also threaten Canada, because, as the last world war showed, hate-fuelled bigotry against some is ultimately a threat to us all, and must be resisted wherever it may lurk.
In this ongoing battle, Canada stands side-by-side with the State of Israel, our friend and ally in the democratic family of nations. We have stood with Israel even when it has not been popular to do so, and we will continue to stand with Israel, just as I have always said we would.
I know that we all hope and pray that someday freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law will be a reality for all the peoples of the Middle East.
Enshrining these values is the best way to assure lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike. The foundations for a peaceful future are there. At the individual level, throughout the holy land, people of all faiths only want what all of us want: a safe place to live, a fair opportunity to get ahead, a good life for their children, a future for their grandchildren. So as we gather tonight to celebrate the first 60 years of the State of Israel, let us resolve as Canadians to do whatever we can to support Israelis and their neighbours in their quest for a better future.
There will be many challenges along the way, but considering how far Israel has come in such a short time, in the face of such seemingly insurmountable odds, I can foresee no dark force, no matter how strong, that could succeed in dimming the light of freedom and democracy that shines from within Israel.
Thank you very much.
Happy 60th anniversary.